Stories are powerful. Fiction, memoir, and poetry have been essential to every liberation movement.
Books offer both readers and authors a chance to engage, empathize, and imagine new worlds together.
The history of queer erasure is vast, and still, today, though media is changing, LGBTQIA+ artists are unrepresented and face unique challenges finding an audience.
Below, we’ve compiled a comprehensive (all though by no means all-encompassing) list of the very best books written by LGBTQIA+ authors.
You’ll find books for every mood — from beachside reads and heart-shattering romances to consciousness-altering, genre-defying art house poetry.
Now more than ever, it’s essential to create more conversation and community around our stories.
Discover my favorite reads below, and if you’re looking for a more immediate, direct way to impact change, consider donating to the National Center for Transgender Equality.
On we go into the multiverse of queer fantasia!
Table of Contents
Table of Contents
If awards can tell you anything, they’ll certainly encourage you to buy this electric, unforgettable, and deeply insightful memoir by acclaimed poet and author, Saeed Jones.
Thus far, How We Fight For Our Lives has won the 2019 Kirkus Prize in Nonfiction, the 2020 Stonewall Book Award, and it has been named one of the New York Times’ 100 Notable Books of 2019.
Recounting the story of Jones’s coming-of-age as a young, black, gay man from the American South, Jones’s style maintains an innovative and evocative pace, swirling and transforming to illuminate each vignette of this stellar book.
If you’re hoping to be swept away into a whirlwind of joy, loss, love, grief, self-discovery, romance, familial ties, and vulnerability — look no further.
Queerness and science fiction have a rich history of influence and entanglement.
Few writers even come close, though, to Octavia Butler’s dazzling collection of works in terms of their inventiveness, candor, and eerily prophetic looks into our collective pasts, presents, and futures.
Though each of Butler’s works is well worth reading, The Parable of the Sower has found particular resonance today.
Originally published in 1993, Butler’s apocalyptic masterpiece takes place in an alternative-universe California sometime in the mid to late 2020s.
Following the life of one of queer sci-fi’s most beloved protagonists, Butler brings the reader through a not-so-distant world that feels closer to reality than ever.
A truly unforgettable book, Butler’s riveting plot, vivid characterizations, and stunning imagination are all on display here at their finest.
A masterclass in storytelling’s power to heal and redeem, poet Ocean Vuong’s breakout novel spans across a first love and the impact of what it means to be a part of a family.
Vuong’s prose is immediate and lithe, “permanently stunning,” as Ron Charles of The Washington Post puts it.
Written as a fictional letter from a son to his mother who cannot read, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous beautifully illustrates the process of making oneself heard from the first page onward.
This is a book written not only for our current moment but that also can and will speak to readers of any age and time.
How do we rescue one another without losing ourselves in the process? How do we reconcile with the trauma of living, continue to survive, and even find joy?
Vuong begins the process of untangling these and many other questions relating to life as a queer person in America today.
Sister Outsider compiles the essential writings of world-renowned black lesbian poet, feminist author, and activist Audre Lorde.
Comprising fifteen essays and speeches, Lorde uses her signature prose and genius cultural insight to take on the interconnected forces of oppression.
Lorde lays out a powerful framework for lasting social action and change, informed by social difference and empathetic intelligence.
This is the book for anyone looking to increase their critical understanding of the world, gain new analytical and emotional tools, and become a deeper, more sensitive thinker.
One of Woolf’s most accomplished works of surrealist social commentary, Orlando features a time-space-and-gender bending protagonist across a vast expanse of 300 years living in Europe.
Written in tribute to lover and friend Vita Sackbville-West, this essential work of queer feminist literature is sure to stay in your mind for years to come.
Full of royal intrigue, hedonistic pleasure, and queer ambiguity, Woolf uses Orlando as a brilliant vessel to interrogate gender politics.
Looking intimately at what love, sex, and life mean across categories of identity in varying historical moments, the novel poses countless questions still painfully relevant in the current moment.
An unflinching work by one of the formative Writers of the 20th century, readers are sure to lose themselves in Woolf’s vivid imagination and prose.
Throughout history, queer people, especially BIPOC, have been actively erased from our cultural record.
Modern HERstory is a radical outcry for readers to re-learn the events and players of recent American history to include those who have been forgotten, willfully, or otherwise.
This collection celebrating seventy women, girls, and gender nonbinary people pushes for a deeper understanding of the leaders and organizations pioneering a better world for all people.
Each story is a powerful reminder of liberation and freedom.
Written for all ages, Modern HERstory is an accessible masterclass for anyone new or old to intersectional liberation movements.
Perfect for reading with students, family members, or children — do your part to learn from, remember, and celebrate these trailblazers.
Compiled by the creators of the beloved @lgbt_history Instagram, We Are Everywhere provides a new, intimate view into the Queer Liberation Movement.
A life-changing read, this collection features over 300 images spanning more than seventy photographers and twenty archives.
An intersectional lens into the worlds of some of the most prominent moments in the fight for queer rights, We Are Everywhere takes an expansive approach into the decades before and after Stonewall, shining new light on the faces and lives of activists who fought so tirelessly.
One of the highest acclaimed queer novels ever written, Giovanni’s Room will break your heart.
Perhaps more resonant than ever, this 1956 novel peers deeply into the immense complexity, beauty, and horror of humanity.
Though often pegged as a “gay book,” Baldwin’s masterful work dives into the infinite and unpacks what it means to be “afraid to love anybody.”
Hauntingly gorgeous and electrically written, Giovanni’s Room is a book worth reading again and again.
Well before Sarah McBride spoke at a national political convention in 2016 as the first openly transgender person, she was the student body president of American University and struggling to decide to come out.
Telling her own story from early childhood to the fateful day she posted about her gender on Facebook and beyond, Tomorrow Will Be Different is an uplifting, beautiful portrait of life in America.
Packed with moments of bravery, activism, and self-actualization, this memoir stands as a manifesto fighting for the power of a more diverse and open world.
As McBride states, “We must never be a country that says there’s only one way to love, only one way to look, and only one way to live.”
An Unkindness of Ghosts is a juggernaut work of queer imagination and vivid example of sci-fi’s radical possibilities.
Taking place on a massive interstellar ship hundreds of years after humanity fleed earth, Solomon crafts a stunning and intricate culture full of complex and powerfully human characters.
Throughout this thrilling, brilliantly conceived plot, Solomon weaves aspects of murder mystery, time travel, botany, and countless other genres into a combined stunning effect.
Power, class, race, and gender are all thrown into new and astonishing clarity aboard the spaceship Matilda.
Equal parts hilarity and heartache, this honest, clever, and insightful book uncovers what it can mean to grow up outside the gender binary.
Wanting a little bit of everything but without the language and support, Tobia faced countless challenges socially and otherwise.
In the spirit of David Sedaris, Sissy hits you hard in the heart with its punchlines; you’ll be laughing till you can’t help but feel the full weight of Tobia’s vignettes and questions.
This electric debut collection from one of the world’s most exciting new voices will sear itself onto the walls of your mind.
Carmen Maria Machado writes with finesse and daring that perfectly underscores her modern ghost stories and genre-defying micro-universes.
Full of apocalyptic musings, domestic hauntings, and intersectional reclaiming of classic ghost stories, Her Body and Other Parties goes where few authors could with boundless confidence.
Equally full of breathless tension and lyrical beauty, each of Machado’s stories stands strongly on its own.
This book is a testament to a mad genius with a true gift for concocting riveting and multidimensional characters, plots, and scenery.
Winner of both the Lambda Literary Pioneer Award and the Lee Lynch Classic Book Award, Rubyfruit Jungle is a groundbreaking debut novel from acclaimed writer Rita Mae Brown.
Brown’s prose is brimming with life, and the book’s protagonist, Molly Bolt, is a complex, rivetingly portrayed character.
Adopted into a poor Southern family, Molly Bolt comes into her brilliance and beauty throughout this coming-of-age tale.
A resonant novel for any queer person, Brown provides a rich meditation on what it means to live as yourself and find happiness in a world set against you.
“Laugh till you cry, and cry till you laugh” truly applies to this unmistakably genius work of fiction.
Related: 27 Best Books on Happiness and Joy
Named one of Entertainment Weekly’s Top 10 Books of the Decade and Winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize, A Brief History of Seven Killings is a fictionalized depiction of life in Jamaican gangs in the 70s and 80s.
This bold, unapologetic, and ambitious novel tackles themes of masculinity, identity, and self-acceptance as readers are led through each of the book’s vivid settings.
A raucous, sweeping, truly epic anticolonial masterpiece, A Brief History of Seven Killings will sit with you for years to come.
Readers should know before embarking on this journey that the book contains graphic depictions of sex, drug use, and violence.
For anyone looking to learn more about one of the most famous queer relationships in American history, Eleanor and Hick is a stupendously researched, intimate, and rich telling of the love and friendship shared by Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena “Hick” Hickok.
A captivating work of historical non-fiction, Susan Quinn’s nuanced and fluid prose grounds every page.
Capturing a relationship that lasted more than 30 years, Quinn doesn’t seek to fill in every blank or find every answer. Rather, she uses her prolific research to tell both a vital queering of American history alongside a moving and emotional love story.
History buffs looking to learn more about the role these two women (and so many others) played in the New Deal and far beyond should hurry to get this book onto their shelves.
Lyrical, evocative, and astonishing, The Gods of Tango brings readers into the heart of early 1900’s Argentina.
Breaking down gender politics and sexuality throughout the history of tango, De Robertis succeeds brilliantly in creating a rhythmic and sensual work of art.
A hypnotic and passionate read, The Gods of Tango is a celebratory reclaiming of history full of lush scenery and expert storytelling.
Named “One of the Best Books of the Year” by The New Yorker and HuffPost, Kirkus Reviews, a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award, and shortlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, Confessions of the Fox is a brilliantly meta work of fiction mixing elements of comedy, erotica, and queer theory.
Revolutionary, this entrancing book traverses time, space, and gender to stunning effect.
Set in eighteenth-century London, Rosenberg’s dazzling work whisks readers through the streets, secrets, and sex of the city.
A pocket-sized book of astounding emotional weight, breadth, and complexity, acclaimed writer Andrea Gibson delves into gender, politics, identity, family, and living as a queer person in modern times. The works are accompanied by beautiful illustrations by Sarah J. Coleman.
Broken into three parts, love, the world, and becoming, Take Me With You consists of poems varying in length, structure, and mood.
This book has something for every reader and is a perfect travel companion for anyone looking to gain some wisdom and enjoy.
Sappho is one of the best-known poets of the ancient world. She lived approximately 150 years after Homer’s Iliad, and it’s said her works filled nine papyrus scrolls in the Great Library at Alexandria.
Today, we have a sparse look into her great oeuvre. What remains, though, has captured the minds and hearts of readers for hundreds of years.
This new translation of her known works showcases the complexity and lyrical power of her verse.
With incredible insight into the universality of the human condition and great arts power to endure, Stung with Love provides a window back in time.
Winner of the 2016 Lambda Literary Award for Bisexual Fiction, The Life and Death of Sophie Stark tells the story of the meteoric rise of an artist, the weight of fame, and what some are willing to do to achieve it.
Deeply perceptive and funny, the book is told through the voices of Sophie Stark’s closest friends, family, collaborators, and subjects.
A gripping story full of lingering images and insights. What is the cost of great art? This book seeks to uncover the messy truth through this magnificent and revealing case study.
If you’re looking for an award-winning read, The Rules Do Not Apply checks all the boxes.
A New York Times bestseller, and “This Year’s Must-Read Memoir” according to W magazine, and “One of the Best Books of the Year” according to Vogue, Time, Esquire, The Guardian, Harper’s Bazaar, Library Journal, and NPR–The Rules Do Not Apply looks at the power of heartbreak, redefining how we live and think about our lives, and find ways to be free.
An intimate and honest look into a life; Ariel Levy’s story is an engaging and profound tale of love, grief, and overcoming.
Masterfully crafted and full of brilliant self-reflections, Levy’s prose speaks volumes with sparse clarity and unwavering wit. A rare book that you’ll finish in days.
While in many ways life as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community is “better” than ever, we still face countless barriers to our safety, mental health, and spiritual wellbeing. Radical Hope seeks to provide a light in the darkness.
A collection of letters “to ancestors, to children five generations from now, to strangers in grocery lines, to any and all who feel weary and discouraged,” this radical and expansive work features the words of acclaimed poets, award-winning novelists, activists, and the world’s formative political advocates.
Full of inspiration, words of courage, and ringing with love, Radical Hope doesn’t deny the harsh realities of today, but rather seeks to provide innovative and radical skills, courage, and strength to readers. In a time of such uncertainty, this book will help to keep your feet firmly grounded.
This New York Times bestselling collection of essays from blogger and writer on Hulu’s Shrill, Samantha Irby is an unflinching, raucously funny, and deeply felt must-read.
Irby has quickly risen to the status of one of America’s formative cultural critics and handles each topic with a brazen yet deft hand.
Packed with mediations and meditations on modern life, Irby tackles everything from budgeting (and how trauma affects spending) to family vacations gone wrong and the Bachelorette.
Her candor and clarity offer readers delicious pieces of advice, powerful truths, and plenty of laughter.
“A sidesplitting polemicist for the most awful situations.”— Janet Maslin, The New York Times, Summer Reading Pick
Today, though our cultural dialogue around gender is finally beginning to change, it’s still hard to find a trans-competent therapist.
Nearly 30 years ago, most medical professionals looked at gender non-conforming people as mentally ill.
Kate Bornstein, however, has always been ahead of trends and loudly, unapologetically challenging the gender binary.
Originally published in 1994, Gender Outlaw is part radical manifesto critiquing our world, part coming-of-age story, and part revolutionary work of gender theory.
Investigating what sex and gender “mean,” Bornstein charts a path traversing the boundaries of man, woman, and in-between–this book is an essential text for queer thinkers or anyone hoping to look deeper into the complex knot that is gender today.
Constantly questioning cultural assumptions, Bornstein blazes a trail into the unknown through her clever, accessible prose.
If Gender Outlaw doesn’t change how you think about yourself and the world around you, it will, at the very least, provide some hard questions to begin the process.
Named one of NPR’s Best Books of 2018 and one of The Washington Post’s 50 Notable Works of Fiction in 2018, When Katie Met Cassidy is a beautiful and romantic tale of what happens when two women find themselves unexpectedly and electrically drawn to one another.
Part romantic comedy, part investigation of identity, attraction, and desire, you’ll be whirled along through the lives of unforgettable characters.
Loyalty, chosen family, belonging, and acceptance all float effortlessly throughout Perri’s story.
Anyone looking to discover or remember what it’s like to find a part of yourself you never knew you were missing, pick up this book.
Related: How to Get to Know Yourself Better
If you haven’t ever read Edward Gorey’s work, you’ll have seen his effect on modern art, illustration, and humor.
A prolific artist and storyteller, Gorey’s small nightmarishly wonderful fairy tales, vignettes, and romps through a Victorian-esque, sex, murder, and drama-filled dreamscape are an essential part of the queer canon.
A notorious outsider, proud weirdo, and lover of trashy TV, Gorey has used his work to inspire generations of queer artists and continues to set a high bar for absurdist storytelling.
This first collection of 15 books is a perfect introduction or inevitable return to Gorey’s one-of-a-kind world.
Another iconic work by poet, activist, and cultural critic Audre Lorde, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name falls in Lorde’s original genre: biomythography.
Combining aspects of biography, history, and myth, Lorde’s work is a pivotal text in the lineage of intersectional queer writing.
Lorde writes with brilliant warmth and passion, illuminating the critical roles and strength of the women who brought her up in 1930s Harlem.
Zami: A New Spelling of My Name celebrates women while exploring the challenges of growing up in this bustling city amidst Jim Crow and a complex lesbian bar scene.
A cyclical text rife with beauty, triumph, and insight, Zami belongs on every bookshelf.
Winner of the Stonewall Book Award, this riveting legal analysis from acclaimed scholar Kenji Yoshino takes an intricate look at the story of Hollingsworth v. Perry.
Taking place over twelve days in 2010, this California trial would go on to become the main legal argument for marriage equality.
On the courtroom floor, marriage, child-rearing, and most pivotally, the role of democracy to protect fundamental rights were all in question. Yoshino brings together facts, legalese, and court arguments to life with skill and confidence.
A richly researched book, Yoshino places Hollingsworth v. Perry in the context of his own life story as a gay may.
Speak Now is the definitive record of this groundbreaking critical civil-rights trial. Each page is handled with care and informs readers without ever losing sight of the deeply human consequences and realities of a case that changed our nation.
Against Equality is a radical work of queer theory forcing readers to ask hard questions about revolution, the interest of the state, and homonormativity.
How does the creation of a queer military or expansion of traditionally exclusionary practices like marriage work against a more radically caring, progressive, and queer society?
How can we work to truly better the world without dismantling the systems that brutalize queer folks and people of color?
Can the police ever truly do anything other than protecting a historically white, privileged status quo
These collected essays look at these and several other difficult nuances and issues of the mainstream gay and lesbian equality movement.
Going far beyond critique, Against Equality seeks to light a fire and begin taking concrete steps towards revolution.
A love story between two young women on the frontlines of a civil war, Under the Udala Trees is a riveting, fast-paced, and deeply expressive work of fiction.
Telling the tense story of two girls whose love crosses boundaries of national prejudice and sexuality in a nation torn apart by violence, Okparanta has received rave reviews from Vogue, The New York Times Book Review, and countless others for her heartbreaking prose, hope always working to break through to the surface.
A powerful novel, Under the Udala Trees uses elegant prose to bring this tale to life.
On the lighter side of things comes Dave Holmes’ hilarious memoir of growing up as an outsider, crushing on straight friends, and rising towards self-acceptance (and eventual status at MTV VJ).
Soundtracked by some of Holmes’ favorite music of the last thirty years, this book charts his overnight rise to success and fortune (kind of).
For any queer readers who have found themselves curled up in a song, lost in their heads, and wishing for some hope, Party of One makes a strong case for staying hopeful, proud of your weirdness, and always keeping the stereo turned up high.
Named one of NPR’s Best Books of 2019, Holme’s journey is a window into growing up gay on the cusp of the new millennium and trying to make things work.
A real treat to read, you’ll be sure to find some new tunes, insights, and giggles along the way.
Filling a much-needed gap in queer ethnographic writing, Sweet Tea chronicles the life histories of over sixty black gay men “born, raised, and [who] continue to live in the South.”
As author Saeed Jones puts it, “It felt like meeting family I didn’t know I had.”
Challenging dominant narratives of the South as a hostile, repressive, or “backward” place, Sweet Tea provides an intimate and vital lens into the communities, crafted families, and networks of lovers and friends thriving both in the past and today.
Sweet Tea complicates ideas of what “antigay” means, and asks readers to expand their understandings of the incredibly rich and diverse lifestyles scattered throughout the American South.
Open Sweet Tea to any of its pages, and you’ll find powerful oral histories critical courageously and honestly expanding understandings of our nation’s queer history.
New York Times Bestselling memoir Boy Erased tells the story of Garrard Conley, the gay son of a Baptist pastor and his experience being put through a twelve-step program to cleanse him of sin and turn him heterosexual. It didn’t work.
A harrowing tale of perseverance and self-knowledge, the memoir is so striking it inspired a 2018 film of the same title starring Nicole Kidman.
Throughout this work, Conley weaves notions of faith, familial ties, forgiveness, and so many other themes essential to living as a closeted person in today’s world.
Another staggeringly meaningful and important debut work from an acclaimed and award-winning writer, Black Queer Hoe is an unapologetic introduction to the words, wisdom, and genius of Britteney Black Rose Kapri.
Kapri’s ability to wield language as she weaves through the tight entanglement of identity, sexuality, and power is unparalleled.
Black Queer Hoe ceaselessly battles and breaks down countless aspects of hegemonic racism, sexism, and capitalist suppression of black women and girls.
Working to redefine and reclaim the very language around us, Kapri celebrates her own legacy and infinitely dynamic self.
A New York Times bestseller written by one of the world’s most beloved and acclaimed writers of historical fiction, The Paying Guests is another shockingly sensual, tasteful, and remarkable work by Sarah Waters.
Called “unputdownable” by The Washington Post, this novel brings readers into the heart of 1920’s London.
A fast-paced and gripping read, The Paying Guests takes murder, adultery, and love to new heights and will leave you begging for more.
Waters atmospheric prose grounds every moment as yet again she delivers readers a searingly beautiful book.
Roxane Gay, perhaps best known for her hugely popular collection of essays, Bad Feminist, holds the status of one of America’s best cultural critics.
In this luminous memoir, memory lives on with dreamlike clarity as Gay unfolds her history and continued journey towards self-understanding.
A complex work of self-examination, Gay never sits atop the mountain, but rather leads readers towards her own realizations and hurdles of living in a world you’ve realized is far from safe.
Soulbearingly honest, Gay is unafraid to sit in the often uncomfortable reality of messy truths and unanswerable questions.
Where is the line between desire and destruction? Self-preservation and punishment? Consumption and satisfaction?
Hunger asks, answers, and dances through these paradoxical, sometimes joyous, and often harsh aspects of humanity.
Finalist for the National Book Award for Poetry and winner of the Forward Prize for Best Collection, Danez Smith’s powerhouse collection Don’t Call Us Dead has found a home in the hearts and minds of thousands of readers in the three years since it was first published.
Smith’s poetry is deft, unflinching, and joyous –– even in its moments of greatest vulnerability and pain.
Smith begins by imagining an afterlife of could-have-been for black men killed by American police.
The pain, violence, and hatred of life on earth cut far too short give way to love, eternity, and safety painted in masterful strokes by Smith’s prose.
From there, these powerful poems take on a wide breadth of topics and tones, digging through the emotional morays of living in this nation.
Devastating, yet endlessly precious and beautiful, Smith’s poems are a demonstration of artistry at its highest level.
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Tony Kushner’s Angels in America is the rare example of a play that lives with true vividness both on the stage and page.
Kushner is revered as one of the greatest living playwrights today, and of all his works, this monumental two-part masterpiece has earned an HBO adaption, several award-winning stage productions, and a spot on countless college literature and drama curriculums.
Following a historically fictionalized timeline, Kushner weaves the lives of a gay couple, a Mormon family, God’s angels, and one of the most notorious closeted lawyers in this ever shocking, always poignant, and deeply funny work.
Full of flirtations, goodbyes, and resurrection, Kushner brings magic and miracle to life in stunning color over the course of these two plays.
A true master of dialogue, subtext, and things both unsaid and unspeakable, Kushner probes into the depths of our desires, fears, and hopes.
This new revised edition includes a new introduction celebrating the play’s twentieth anniversary and recent changes made by the author.
Named One of the Best Books of the Year by Entertainment Weekly, NPR, the Kirkus Review, and BookPage, Kayla Rae Whitaker’s The Animators is as much about the power of friendship, trauma, secrets, and love as it is about art. Whitaker’s insightful, clever writing is a joy to read.
Telling the story of the intimately collaborative relationship of two friends and artistic partners, Whitaker’s debut novel charts their rise to critical acclaim and the cusp of fame.
Cracks begin to show as the relationship comes under the strains of jealousy and self-destruction.
A dynamic portrait of two women working against the odds, The Animators is a funny, all too real, and heartbreaking book about the cost of growth and what we forget (and hide) as the years go by.
Allison Bechdel became a household name in 1985 after introducing the concept of the Bechdel test in her hugely popular comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For.
A metric for judging the quality of women’s representation in film, the Bechdel test has gone on to be used in countless Film Studies courses, critic’s reviews, and queer literature.
Bechdel’s work has grown far beyond her comic strip, though, and with the introduction of her graphic novel Fun Home, Bechdel launched her career in a whole new direction.
This amazing and intricate work covers Bechdel’s complicated early-life growing up in rural Pennsylvania. An emotive, intimate graphic novel worth savoring every page.